A cat that needs constant attention and affection can quickly become overwhelming. We all love our pets, but also live busy lives. It can feel impossible to accommodate a difficult cat’s expectations while also fulfilling other responsibilities.
If this desire for attention seems to have come from nowhere, you need to consider the cause. If a cat’s behavior changed drastically all of a sudden, there is a reason. Your pet may be in physical or emotional distress. This in-depth guide explains how to handle a demanding cat.
- 1 Cat Breeds That Need the Most Attention
- 2 How Much Attention Does a Cat Need?
- 3 Needy Cat vs. Demanding Cat
- 4 Why is My Cat So Needy All of a Sudden?
- 5 My Cat Wants to be Petted Constantly
- 6 My Cat Wants to Play Constantly
- 7 Is My Cat Being Affectionate Because They’re in Heat?
- 8 My Cat is Restless and Meowing
- 9 Why Does My Cat Only Bother Me for Attention?
Cat Breeds That Need the Most Attention
Before cursing your cat for their neediness, you should know if it’s part of their nature. Some cat breeds require more attention than others.
The most clingy cat breeds are as follows:
- Maine Coon
- Egyptian Mau
- Cornish Rex or Devon Rex
The following breeds of cat are among the most independent:
- Japanese or Kurilian Bobtail
- Norwegian Forest Cat
Naturally, there are exceptions to every rule. Cats are individuals. Some Siamese cats may be indifferent to human company, and some bobtails can demand constant affection.
How Much Attention Does a Cat Need?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to cats. Every feline has its unique wants and needs.
Most cats will be happy enough with 20 minutes of focused, one-on-one attention per day. Your cat’s breed, age, energy levels, health, and temperament will all play a part.
Getting your cat into a strict routine is essential to manage their desires for attention. Cats do not flourish in an environment of chaos. They need to know what is happening, and when.
If your cat understands they will be played with every day, they should calm down. You need to hold up your end of this deal, though. That doesn’t just mean playing every day, but playing at the same time every day.
A cat that expects attention first thing in the morning grows anxious if it’s not forthcoming. The same applies to a cat that expects a playtime just before dinner.
Just because your cat doesn’t wear a wristwatch, it doesn’t mean they’re not aware of time. They know when to expect things that are important to them. It’s up to you to meet those expectations.
When life gets in the way, ask somebody to fill in. As much as we’d like to, we can’t build our world around our pets. If you’re stuck in the office, get somebody else to feed and play with your cat.
If a cat’s needs are being met, they’ll accept it. They might prefer other people to step up, but they’ll cope. Completely chopping and changing a schedule, however, is a strict no-no. That leads to an anxious and insecure cat, and these make for very needy pets.
How Do I Know if My Cat is Getting Enough Attention?
If your cat feels neglected, you’ll know about it. A cat that wants attention will perform many tasks to gain it. Classic signs of attention seeking behavior in cats include:
- Continually scratching and kneading at you
- Following your around the house, often rubbing against your legs as you walk
- Breaking house rules, such as sitting on the furniture
- Eliminating outside the litter box
- Knocking things off tables
- Deliberately obstructing activities, such as lying on a laptop so you cannot type
- Hiding your personal effects
- Constant verbalization, even if it’s seemingly about nothing in particular.
If your cat behaves in any of these ways, they are trying to communicate. Spend more time with your cat, and get them into a routine.
If the attention seeking continues after this, your cat has crossed from demanding to needy. This is more problematic, and you’ll need to get to the root of the behavior.
Needy Cat vs. Demanding Cat
It’s a thin line, but there is a fine line between these two states:
- Demanding cats know what they want, and they expect it immediately.
- Needy cats are clingy for a reason. Usually, they are unwell or psychologically damaged.
A demanding cat is attempting to assert dominance over you. They are not interested in being trained. They want to teach you.
Remember, no cat thinks of you as their master. Felines consider us their equals. A very demanding cat still knows that they cannot operate a can opener, though.
If you have a demanding cat, you’ll need to coach them out of their pushy nature. This is done by ignoring any unwanted behavior, and rewarding positive actions. If your cat meows loudly to demand affection, ignore them. It’s tough, but necessary.
They’ll grow weary and stop eventually – and then you can give them attention. Your cat will quickly realize that being quiet and patient earns more rewards than yelling.
A clingy cat needs to be treated differently. These cats are acting this way for a reason. If they’re sick or stressed, ignoring their pleas for help will make them worse.
The only way to know is through a process of elimination. Ensure that your cat isn’t feeling stressed by a change in routine.
Beyond this, you may need to see a vet. A physical check-up, including testing blood and urine, will reveal any potential illness.
If your pet is healthy and has no reason to be anxious, you can relax. They’re pushing their luck to see how much demanding behavior they can get away with.
You may have some trying times ahead as you train your cat, but they’re entirely fixable.
Why is My Cat So Needy All of a Sudden?
If your cat is looking for more attention than usual, there will be a reason. Often, this is a mental or physical health concern.
Cats need structure and routine in their lives. Without it, they come incredibly anxious. Anxious cats can be awkward pets to have around the house.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to stress a cat out. As Mercola explains, cats have a lot of triggers. Aside from changes to their routine, these include:
- Changes to the home layout. If you move furniture, your cat will become discombobulated.
- Continually attempting to initiate unwanted physical contact. Your cat will tell you when they want to be held, or picked up.
- Ignoring a cat’s body language, expecting them to respond to verbal commands. Cats Protection explains feline body language in detail.
- Failing to clean up their litter box. Cats are clean, and they like to stay that way.
- Bringing new people (or pets) into the home. Cats like things exactly as they are. If somebody new arrives in a home, it takes time for a cat to readjust.
- If your house is noisy and busy, cats will need some time to themselves to cool off.
This is just the tip of the iceberg really – felines are very sensitive animals. Indoor pets, in particular, are jittery and susceptible to change. This is why routine is so critical.
What if nothing has changed in your cat’s day-to-day life, though? If they have suddenly started to become clingy, they may be unwell physically.
Cats cannot explain to you that they’re in pain or unwell. In truth, they wouldn’t even if they could. Felines do not like showing weakness. They worry that another cat will take advantage and start to dominate them.
All the same, a cat that is feeling unwell will be feeling vulnerable. This means that they will seek comfort. Cats know who will show them kindness, and approach them accordingly.
My Older Cat is Suddenly Clingy
If an older cat becomes reluctant to leave your side, they’re increasingly likely to be unwell. A senior cat is often a sign of concern. Many older cats prefer to be left alone so they can rest.
Sometimes, simple wear and tear of age on the body that makes senior cats feel vulnerable. It’s possible that your cat is losing their sight or hearing.
These senses often leave a cat when they are well into double figures. Naturally, this will leave your pet feeling a little confused. They’ll want to be your side as a result.
One potential explanation is also that your cat is starting to go senile. This condition, known as feline cognitive dysfunction, has similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
A cat with cognitive dysfunction will become very clingy. This is because they are confused, and seek reassurance from their owner that all is OK. Unfortunately, these regular displays of affection are also dispersed by bouts of uncharacteristic, aggressive hostility.
As the ASPCA explains, other warning signs of cognitive dysfunction in your senior cat include:
- A reversed wake-sleep cycle, leading to your cat vocalizing at night and sleeping all day.
- Staring into space, or at a wall, for prolonged periods of time.
- Losing interest in eating, grooming, and playing.
- Getting lost and confused in familiar surroundings, even inside the home.
- Seemingly not recognizing human family members.
At the first sign of these symptoms, seek professional help. FCD cannot be cured, but it can be slowed down with medication when caught early.
You should also be sure to keep your cat mentally engaged. Even just talking to them helps. Puzzles and games will also slow down the degeneration of your cat’s faculties.
My Cat Wants to be Petted Constantly
A cat that wants constant affection can be troublesome to deal with. If they’re occupied with something else, you can’t stroke your cat.
The only option is to ignore a cat’s cries. It’s going to be hard, as nobody wants their pet to be sad. Tough love is the only way to go, though.
Just like when training a demanding cat, your pet will eventually get the message. They’ll find that patience pays dividends.
Also, teach your cat that there is a time and a place for petting. For example, while you are sitting on the sofa. If your cat jumps in your lap, and you’re happy to do so, pet them. This tells your cat that sofa time is petting time.
As a result, your cat will start to expect petting whenever you’re together on the sofa. However, they will also learn that they won’t be petted while you’re standing in the kitchen. This is a compromise that should suit human and feline.
My Cat Wants to Play Constantly
If your cat wants to play all the time, ask yourself if they have an appropriate routine. If a cat knows when their playtime is, they usually wait for it.
If you do manage to be consistent, consider whether your cat’s environment is otherwise enriching. If your cat is bored all day, they’ll have a lot of energy.
Ensure that your cat is constantly mentally engaged, even if they’re by themselves. Offer a wide array of toys and several different scratching posts.
Your cat may also be struggling with an inability to embrace their hunting instincts. Former outdoor cats that are now inside all day, in particular, have trouble adapting.
Interactive play with your cat matters, in this case. Playtime simulates the hunting experience. You may need to step up the time that you do spend with your cat.
You may consider getting a second cat, so your pet has a constant playmate. There are certainly pros and cons to this. If you decide to get a second cat, ensure they are compatible in terms of temperament.
Is My Cat Being Affectionate Because They’re in Heat?
Another reason that cats suddenly become very affectionate is that they’re in heat. If your cat is female and has never been spayed, this could be the explanation.
Look out for any other additional behaviors:
- Frequently stopping any movement and adopting the estrus position. This involves your cat placing her head on the floor, and her bottom in the air.
- Swelling around the reproductive organs. Your cat may start licking her genitals more than usual, too.
- Urinating and spraying outside the litter box. Your cat is advertising her presence to as many male cats as possible.
- Yowling and crying to be let outside, with increasing intensity.
The last of these actions is impossible to ignore, or mistake. Until your cat is spayed, they will continue to have heat cycles.
If you cannot stand these behaviors, there is only one solution. A spayed cat will typically be much happier and healthier anyway.
My Cat is Restless and Meowing
If your cat will not settle and constantly meows, they want something from you. They are unable to settle down until they get it. Unfortunately, they cannot explain what they want in words.
This can be frustrating for your cat. You’ll have to work through a checklist until you find a solution.
- Are they hungry? Offer a treat.
- Are they thirsty? Refill their water bowl.
- Do they want attention? Offer them a little light petting.
- Do they have too much energy? Play with them.
It’s also possible that your cat is just feeling under the weather and irritable.
My Cat Meows for Attention Then Runs Away
This seems like a counter-productive behavior in cats. They demand attention with a meow. You respond with what they seemingly want. They then run away. What gives?
There are three possible explanations for this behavior.
- Your cat wants to draw your attention to something. Watch where they run.
- Your cat is meowing and running because they want you to chase them. They feel that tearing you away from what you’re doing will improve their chances of playtime.
- Your cat wants affection, but is unable or unwilling to receive it. This is common in traumatized rescue cats that have been mistreated.
Let’s start with the first explanation – that your cat wants to show you something. This is arguably the most likely explanation for this behavior.
As suggested, look at where your cat runs. Is it to their food bowl? You don’t need us to tell you what that means. Is it to their water? They are likely thirsty, but consider the water contaminated.
If your cat guides you to their litter tray, check that it’s clean. They likely want to eliminate, but smell previous deposits in there. If they show you a window or door, they may want to go out.
Of course, as we mention, they may want you to chase them. If you have been spending hours at your laptop, or reading, your cat may feel neglected. They want to tear you away from whatever they feel is hogging their rightful attention.
Finally, we have potential trauma. This is the toughest scenario to resolve. Your cat wants to feel loved, but can’t shake off bad memories of being touched.
This can become frustrating. However, the way through is perseverance. Once your cat has been exposed to physical touch sufficiently, they’ll grow to accept it.
Why Does My Cat Only Bother Me for Attention?
It can seem strange when a cat insists on receiving attention from one person in particular. While felines do choose a favorite person over all others, their choice can sometimes be odd.
Cats know who provide attention when it is asked for. This is vital information that they record. What’s even more critical to cats is knowing who will not demand their attention.
Some cats imprint upon a regular visitor. This leaves the cat pining when you’re not around. That can make them even needier toward their human family.